Imprisoned member of council keeps seat
By Carole Carlson email@example.com May 13, 2014 9:24PM
Gary Common Council President Ronier Scott. April 26, 2010.
Updated: June 15, 2014 6:41AM
GARY — City Councilman Ronier Scott, who’s spending the summer in federal prison in Terre Haute for income tax evasion, will remain on the council.
Council members declined Tuesday night to force Scott out but did vote 8-0 to withhold his pay while he’s in prison. Scott, 42, reported to prison May 6 and is scheduled to be released Aug. 4.
Scott, D-6th, pleaded guilty of two counts of misdemeanor tax evasion in February and received three months in prison and 400 hours of community service. Scott would have to forfeit his seat if convicted of a felony. He said he won’t resign because he needs to support his family.
Council president Kyle Allen said last month that he wanted Scott removed from the council to maintain its sense of integrity and ethics, even though Scott wasn’t convicted of a felony.
Other council members apparently couldn’t stomach removing one of their own.
Roy Pratt, D-at-large, said he didn’t think the council should become “judge and jury” over Scott. Pratt said he wrestled with the decision but decided the people of the 6th District will determine Scott’s future if he runs for re-election next year.
“He made a serious mistake for not paying his taxes. ... I believe he should have a second chance,” Pratt said to a small chorus of applause from the audience.
Allen said he wanted Scott to resign, but his “second position was to have the council vacate his seat per state law. There was no support for that.”
He said the only alternative left was to deny Scott compensation while in prison.
Allen said information received from the state attorney general’s office suggested that the city could run afoul of ghost-payrolling laws if it continued to pay Scott his salary. He earned $27,571 last year.
Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson urged the council to take action.
“When a person is unable to discharge their duty to the people because of incarceration, that gives people a reason to paint us all with a broad brush and view us negatively,” she said.
Scott is the second council member to go to prison this year for failing to pay income tax. Marilyn Krusas, 70, stepped down last year following her conviction and is serving a one-year sentence at a federal prison in Fort Worth.